Hispania Racing (HRT) owner José Ramón Carabante has anticipated 'many joys' from the team's Geoff Willis-designed 2011 contender and has revealed that 'a major sponsor' is in the pipeline – but he also warns that F1 remains very much 'a long-term project' for the struggling Spanish backmarker.
Having arrived on the grand prix grid as one of the three F1 2010 newcomers last year, HRT's maiden campaign in the top flight was a torrid one, characterised by a woefully uncompetitive and out-dated car, insufficient finances, chronic early reliability and a revolving door policy with regard to its drivers. The only reason the team wound up ahead of Virgin Racing in eleventh spot in the final constructors' standings rather than plum last was the fact that its reliability improved considerably over the course of the season – even if its performance didn't.
Indeed, Hispania's myriad trials and tribulations last year led many to muse that the Murcia-based operation would no longer be around in 2011, especially after several mooted mergers or takeovers failed to materialise. A purported collaboration with Toyota to use the Japanese manufacturer's stillborn, never-raced 2010 chassis' also recently fell through since, Carabante explains, 'the Cosworth [engine] did not fit in the Toyota and we couldn't break the agreement with Cosworth because the clause was that they had to have been one of the least reliable, and they were not'.
Moreover, a spokesperson has confirmed that the team will take a modified 2010 Dallara-built F110 chassis to the opening pre-season group test in Valencia at the beginning of February – given that a total lack of pre-season testing hampered HRT to such an extent last year, hardly an encouraging prospect. Having inked a deal to benefit from Williams gearboxes in 2011, however, Carabante foresees better times ahead.
“The car [Willis] has designed will give us many joys,” the ebullient Spanish businessman told Radio Marca
. “The car is being made partly in Germany and partly in England, and it will be ready. We have been working on it for some time, and it will be in Bahrain, for sure. Last year was much more difficult. This time we will be in the winter tests.
“[The aim for 2011 is] to consolidate and be a step further ahead than last year. It is a long-term project, and we will see if in two or three years we are established, as was the initial idea.”
Meanwhile, despite proclaiming that 'soon we will announce a major sponsor because negotiations are well-advanced...it is one of the five most important companies in Spain', Carabante went on to lament the dearth of interest in his team's efforts in its homeland and a lack of appreciation of the global value of the sport.
“In F1 these days, there is no need to spend €5 million or €10 million [as a sponsor],” he protested. “You can come in with €1 million or €500,000. You go to large companies in this country and tell them that with their support you can have the car of Toyota, the use of their facilities and be in the top eight from time-to-time – but they don't support you. We have a Spanish team which would be even more Spanish with a driver like Pedro de la Rosa, but the companies did not come in.”
Indeed, on the subject of drivers, prominent HRT engineer Toni Cuquerella has tempered team principal Dr. Colin Kolles' recent scathing assessment that an inexperienced line-up was largely to blame for failing to progress Hispania in 2010, reasoning that 'it is true that we were disadvantaged compared to having a driver like [Jarno] Trulli [at rival Lotus], but there is no doubt that the car was slow as well' – whilst Carabante added that discussions are ongoing with 'five or six' potential candidates for the two available cockpits this year, and that 'maybe' a Spaniard is amongst them.
Cuquerella, finally, has slated F1's controversial energy-saving KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology as 'inefficient'. Neither HRT nor Virgin intend to use KERS upon its return in 2011.
“It is a fashionable green technology that helps to sell more [road] cars,” the former BMW engineer told Spanish website motor21.com
. “It's inefficient, but the large manufacturers want it to sell their cars. A lot of the manufacturers want KERS as a tool of their marketing departments to justify their investments in F1.”